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The Big Idea: Jess Montgomery

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 09:54
Who tells the story of a novel? For her new novel The Widows, the question is not an academic one for Jess Montgomery — her story of 1920s Appalachia hinged on the right voice to tell the tale. JESS MONTGOMERY: A few years ago, we were planning our first trip to visit our younger daughter […]

So This Is Interesting, He Said, With No Self-Interest Whatsoever

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 17:00
Tim Miller, David Fincher to Create Adult-Themed Animated Shorts Series for Netflix I’d watch that.

Author Incomes: Not Great, Now or Then

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 11:03
What’s being passed around among authors in the last few days: The latest Author’s Guild survey, which shows that the median income for all authors (from their books) is $6,080, while the median income for full-time authors is $20,300. That $6k median figure is down significantly from previous years. So if you made more than […]

Me and My Grandfather

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 01/06/2019 - 19:24
My mother posted this on Facebook a few days ago, and I thought I’d also post it here so it didn’t get lost down the Facebook memory hole: This is a picture of me and my grandfather, Michael Scalzi. I’m guessing I’m about four or five in that photo, so this would be from 1973 […]

Divisive economics

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/05/2019 - 18:49
Let's step away from politics.... till the end of this missive... and look instead at economics:

== Fiscal Management ==

The Evonomics site -- where Adam Smith would post, today -- offers this: Economists Agree: Democratic Presidents are Better at Making Us Rich. Eight Reasons Why.
The difference is stunning and inarguable... an average of 4.4% annual growth vs. a piddling 2.5%... and it has been consistent across 70 years. How to explain it?
The eight hypotheses offered here are interesting and consistent with modern economics. (Which "Supply Side voodoo" is not.) But #7 will resonate with what I have been saying to so-called market conservatives for years:
7. Fiscal Prudence. True conservatives pay their bills. From the 35 years of declining debt after World War II (until 1982), to the years of budget surpluses and declining debt under Bill Clinton, to the radical shrinking of the budget deficit under Obama, Democratic policies demonstrate which party merits the name “fiscal conservatives.”
Now, in fairness, a cogent Republican would answer: "Hey, weren't there Republican Congresses during some of that time?" Yes, and that actually mattered once - during the anno mirabilis year 1995, when Newt Gingrich corralled enough GOP support and negotiated with Bill Clinton to give us both Welfare Reform and the Budget Act. We almost got a third miracle, when the bipartisan Danforth-Kerrey commission proposed a compromise Entitlements Reform package that would have secured our finances for decades while ensuring every American child got health care. 
We know what happened then. Led by Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert, the Murdochian Republicans rendered the Danforth kind extinct, ending all semblance of adult politics in America. (And Newt knuckled under, instead of fighting for America.)

Proof that Clinton, not the GOP, merits credit for the Clinton surplusses is simple. Those surpluses turned red almost overnight in 2001. What changed politically? A shift in the White House, not Congress, Cause-and-effect. Subsequent Republican Congresses were the laziest in U.S. history, passing almost no bills and holding few non-Clinton-aimed hearings, except for eagerly passing Supply Side tax cuts for the uber-rich. But that's another matter.
Alas, this list is incomplete. The best hypothesis for why the economy does better under democrats is left off is my addition:
#9: Under democratic presidents, regulators act to enforce the rule of law. That’s the chief function of the Executive Branch. And when there is a democratic president, his appointees actually try to make the duly legislated laws of the United States function in the best manner intended. 

Yes, there are anecdotal examples of that being a bad thing! But negative in general? Dig it. Across 6000 years, all flat-fair-competitive markets were destroyed by cheaters (mostly feudal lords), until the recent invention of regulatory law... As recommended in Wealth of Nations. As we see in professional sports, you only get competition that is flat and fair when there’s regulation. 

Yes, it is conservative dogma that all regulation’s bad! (On occasion, regulation can be cloying, as with the industry-captured ICC and CAB -- the examples relentlessly cited by Ayn Rand -- which were eliminated by... Democrats.)  But is faithful execution of duly-enacted U.S. regulatory law negative in general? The actual evidence – both from 6000 years and the last 70 or so – suggests that the dogma is just plain wrong.
Oh, see this important Evonomics article, too!  “Want to Kill Your Economy? Have MBA Programs Churn out Takers Not Makers". Why has business education failed business?” If we and Russia were truly friends, we’d send them half our MBAs. Both economies would skyrocket!

And this Evonomics piece about Wall Street parasitism. These are the heirs of Adam Smith.
== The ongoing civil war ==
One of our best essayist-historians avows that "The American civil war didn't end. And Trump is a Confederate president." Yes, I've been saying similar things about a resurgent Confederacy for almost two decades. In this case, Rebecca Solnit proposes that we've been fighting the same Civil War for 158 years. Moreover, the Confederacy has now accomplished what it never could in the 1860s, taking Washington. 
Ms. Solnit further ascribes this phenomenon to a broad loathing of modern trends by White Males. (Though, indeed, weren't they a majority of those who fought and died under the Blue, in earlier phases of this conflict?)
Most of you know my version of this is a bit more broad -- that this "civil war" is a clash of culture going back much further, to the 1770s; it ebbs and surges in phases and we are now in Number Eight, a particularly nasty one that could go "hot" as described in Sean Smith's novel "Tears of Abraham." 
We agree (as always) far more than we disagree. Still, as a Social Justice Warrior - albeit a brilliant one - Ms. Solnit can only see this ongoing conflict in terms of racism and sexism. Those certainly play major roles! But as historical psychologists have long known, the deepest undercurrent of confederate culture is romanticism -- a tendency to clutch voluptuously resentful delusions and pledge fealty to a lordly caste. 

In the 1770s that caste was the British monarchy and aristocracy that made Southerners more loyal to the Tory cause, and made them deeply abusive toward the Scots-Irish, deemed as sub-human. In the 1860s it was fealty to plantation lords. Today it is a fast-rising world oligarchy that red (gray-confederate) Americans far-prefer over the Union's favored elites -- men and women of skill and knowledge and productivity and science. That has always been a key divide: meritocratic achievement over inheritance and blood.  Nazism was a notoriously romantic movement.
(An aside, one can understand the Gray Grudge better if you look what happens to small towns every June, after High School graduation, when the best and brightest quickly scurry off to blue universities and cities and all that impudent meritocracy-stuff. This annual trauma has been going on for more than a century, feeding an underlying simmer of hate, as we literally steal their children.)
This is not a zero-sum disagreement with Ms. Solnit. Attributing confederatism to embedded romantic culture does not excuse racism, sexism and all that! My explanation should only strengthen our resistance to this chronic, 250 year-old American affliction. See my earlier missives - Phases of the US Civil War...and about how phase 3 (1852-1860) needs especially to be remembered.
We've both shown that the average American is more likely to act heroically in any emergency, rather than with cowardice. (Solnit's "A Paradise Built In Hell or her latest collection of essays on American crises: Call Them by Their True Names.) I’m enough of a fellow-traveller and ally to be glad she's out there, spreading powerfully true memes. I still think calm generalship and tactics and understanding the enemy will matter, over the long run. But yes, there are occasions when pointed fury is more apropos than mere moderate militance! I am next to you, blue kepi on my head. We need altos and tenors, barritones and sopranos singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
== Again, libertarians wise up! ==

I keep reaching out to an intellectual community that some of you dismiss as "hopeless." Because I think it is worthwhile. And so I point to obvious things.

1. Flat-fair-open competition is the greatest creative force in the universe. Sound pretty “libertarian”? Ah, but for all of time, flat-fair-open competition was ruined by a destructive force... cheating. The mighty use their wealth & power to cheat and prevent competition from below, preserving their sons’ privilege to own other peoples’ daughters and sons. Across history this always wrecked the promise. Always.
3. The Enlightenment found a tentative way out of this trap. It gradually improved 5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports.  All are tightly regulated to prevent inevitable cheating. And cheaters innovate! Hence a need for revised or new regulations. Imagine a sporting league without rules or referees, but with massive money rewards at stake. Watch Rollerball. 
3. Liberals tend to frown at the word "competition." Conservatives snarl at "regulation." When it is only Regulated Competition that ever worked! Yes, over-regulation can cloy or get captured. But again, who banished the captured ICC and CAB and broke up AT&T?  Replace GOP with POC… the Party of Cheaters.
4. Meanwhile libertarians have completely abandoned the "c-word" that should be their center... "competition" in favor of “property.”  Ignore that it’s Democrats who are ending the Drug War, who are taking the Law out of your bedrooms. It’s Democrats under whom entrepreneurialism always does better. That’s always. Ask any libertarian and he won’t care about any of that. The goal of Steve Forbes and Rupert Murdoch and the Kochs is to to have them hold their noses and vote Republican, because “the GOP is ‘slightly less bad”. And that’s enough.
Keep these Mensa-type, underachieving nerds ignoring 6000 years of history, Pay for some pizza and some ego-flattering meme-rants and they’ll  trust that the fast-rising conniving cabals of oligarchs won't re-impose the great enemy of freedom — feudalism. This time — we pinkie swear we won’t!. 

Oligarchs are blocked from total power by fact folks and civil servants… so pour hate on those dedicated folks!
Oh, those  5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports?  They all thrive to exactly the extent that all participants can clearly see what's going on. Transparency. All five wither and dies amid clots and cancerous clouds of secrecy.
Rant-mode off!  ;-)
== End to Gerrymandering? ==
It is within range of possibility - one could pray and hope - that John Roberts will decide to personally save America and Western Civilization and all our hopes for an advanced and decent human future. One ruling - this one - could be how his name will echo down time, either like Roger Taney or like Earl Warren, perhaps reversing the cheating that has stolen American democracy.

Yes, one of the worst gerrymanderers is Maryland... one of the last holdouts amid a wave of voter-led reform in Blue States. Watch as Obama and Holder and other top dems file amicus briefs against Maryland democrats, in part because this crime is now MOSTLY a Red cheat, of course. But also because it is an outrageous crime.

How to fix it? Past SCOTUS rulings evaded the issue, saying they could not see a simple remedy. Bull. Almost any nonpartisan commission would eliminate 80% of the travesty. But we now know excellent mathematical metrics to maximize "voter efficiency." Moreover, I have offered a plan that answers every known GOP objection. Unlike all others, it even retains "state legislature sovereignty!" It allows one of each state's three chambers to be gerrymandered and STILL corrects the injustice !


== Miscellaneous thoughts ==
“Today’s (2018) Congress is dominated by party leaders and functions as a junior partner to the executive," according to an analysis by The Washington Post and ProPublica.

On the other hand, the newly elected Congress will be younger, more female and more diverse, than ever before.

Has there been electoral cheating? See my article on Medium: Henchmen: We are watching

Post-election, carry forward your determination to save civilization. Have a look at Lawrence Lessig’s new campaign — to end super-PACS in America.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Divisive eocnomics

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/05/2019 - 18:49
Let's step away from politics.... till the end of this missive... and look instead at economics:

== Fiscal Management ==

The Evonomics site -- where Adam Smith would post, today -- offers this: Economists Agree: Democratic Presidents are Better at Making Us Rich. Eight Reasons Why.
The difference is stunning and inarguable... an average of 4.4% annual growth vs. a piddling 2.5%... and it has been consistent across 70 years. How to explain it?
The eight hypotheses offered here are interesting and consistent with modern economics. (Which "Supply Side voodoo" is not.) But #7 will resonate with what I have been saying to so-called market conservatives for years:
7. Fiscal Prudence. True conservatives pay their bills. From the 35 years of declining debt after World War II (until 1982), to the years of budget surpluses and declining debt under Bill Clinton, to the radical shrinking of the budget deficit under Obama, Democratic policies demonstrate which party merits the name “fiscal conservatives.”
Now, in fairness, a cogent Republican would answer: "Hey, weren't there Republican Congresses during some of that time?" Yes, and that actually mattered once - during the anno mirabilis year 1995, when Newt Gingrich corralled enough GOP support and negotiated with Bill Clinton to give us both Welfare Reform and the Budget Act. We almost got a third miracle, when the bipartisan Danforth-Kerrey commission proposed a compromise Entitlements Reform package that would have secured our finances for decades while ensuring every American child got health care. 
We know what happened then. Led by Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert, the Murdochian Republicans rendered the Danforth kind extinct, ending all semblance of adult politics in America. (And Newt knuckled under, instead of fighting for America.)

Proof that Clinton, not the GOP, merits credit for the Clinton surplusses is simple. Those surpluses turned red almost overnight in 2001. What changed politically? A shift in the White House, not Congress, Cause-and-effect. Subsequent Republican Congresses were the laziest in U.S. history, passing almost no bills and holding few non-Clinton-aimed hearings, except for eagerly passing Supply Side tax cuts for the uber-rich. But that's another matter.
Alas, this list is incomplete. The best hypothesis for why the economy does better under democrats is left off is my addition:
#9: Under democratic presidents, regulators act to enforce the rule of law. That’s the chief function of the Executive Branch. And when there is a democratic president, his appointees actually try to make the duly legislated laws of the United States function in the best manner intended. 

Yes, there are anecdotal examples of that being a bad thing! But negative in general? Dig it. Across 6000 years, all flat-fair-competitive markets were destroyed by cheaters (mostly feudal lords), until the recent invention of regulatory law... As recommended in Wealth of Nations. As we see in professional sports, you only get competition that is flat and fair when there’s regulation. 

Yes, it is conservative dogma that all regulation’s bad! (On occasion, regulation can be cloying, as with the industry-captured ICC and CAB -- the examples relentlessly cited by Ayn Rand -- which were eliminated by... Democrats.)  But is faithful execution of duly-enacted U.S. regulatory law negative in general? The actual evidence – both from 6000 years and the last 70 or so – suggests that the dogma is just plain wrong.
Oh, see this important Evonomics article, too!  “Want to Kill Your Economy? Have MBA Programs Churn out Takers Not Makers". Why has business education failed business?” If we and Russia were truly friends, we’d send them half our MBAs. Both economies would skyrocket!

And this Evonomics piece about Wall Street parasitism. These are the heirs of Adam Smith.
== The ongoing civil war ==
One of our best essayist-historians avows that "The American civil war didn't end. And Trump is a Confederate president." Yes, I've been saying similar things about a resurgent Confederacy for almost two decades. In this case, Rebecca Solnit proposes that we've been fighting the same Civil War for 158 years. Moreover, the Confederacy has now accomplished what it never could in the 1860s, taking Washington. 
Ms. Solnit further ascribes this phenomenon to a broad loathing of modern trends by White Males. (Though, indeed, weren't they a majority of those who fought and died under the Blue, in earlier phases of this conflict?)
Most of you know my version of this is a bit more broad -- that this "civil war" is a clash of culture going back much further, to the 1770s; it ebbs and surges in phases and we are now in Number Eight, a particularly nasty one that could go "hot" as described in Sean Smith's novel "Tears of Abraham." 
We agree (as always) far more than we disagree. Still, as a Social Justice Warrior - albeit a brilliant one - Ms. Solnit can only see this ongoing conflict in terms of racism and sexism. Those certainly play major roles! But as historical psychologists have long known, the deepest undercurrent of confederate culture is romanticism -- a tendency to clutch voluptuously resentful delusions and pledge fealty to a lordly caste. 

In the 1770s that caste was the British monarchy and aristocracy that made Southerners more loyal to the Tory cause, and made them deeply abusive toward the Scots-Irish, deemed as sub-human. In the 1860s it was fealty to plantation lords. Today it is a fast-rising world oligarchy that red (gray-confederate) Americans far-prefer over the Union's favored elites -- men and women of skill and knowledge and productivity and science. That has always been a key divide: meritocratic achievement over inheritance and blood.  Nazism was a notoriously romantic movement.
(An aside, one can understand the Gray Grudge better if you look what happens to small towns every June, after High School graduation, when the best and brightest quickly scurry off to blue universities and cities and all that impudent meritocracy-stuff. This annual trauma has been going on for more than a century, feeding an underlying simmer of hate, as we literally steal their children.)
This is not a zero-sum disagreement with Ms. Solnit. Attributing confederatism to embedded romantic culture does not excuse racism, sexism and all that! My explanation should only strengthen our resistance to this chronic, 250 year-old American affliction. See my earlier missives - Phases of the US Civil War...and about how phase 3 (1852-1860) needs especially to be remembered.
We've both shown that the average American is more likely to act heroically in any emergency, rather than with cowardice. (Solnit's "A Paradise Built In Hell or her latest collection of essays on American crises: Call Them by Their True Names.) I’m enough of a fellow-traveller and ally to be glad she's out there, spreading powerfully true memes. I still think calm generalship and tactics and understanding the enemy will matter, over the long run. But yes, there are occasions when pointed fury is more apropos than mere moderate militance! I am next to you, blue kepi on my head. We need altos and tenors, barritones and sopranos singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
== Again, libertarians wise up! ==

I keep reaching out to an intellectual community that some of you dismiss as "hopeless." Because I think it is worthwhile. And so I point to obvious things.

1. Flat-fair-open competition is the greatest creative force in the universe. Sound pretty “libertarian”? Ah, but for all of time, flat-fair-open competition was ruined by a destructive force... cheating. The mighty use their wealth & power to cheat and prevent competition from below, preserving their sons’ privilege to own other peoples’ daughters and sons. Across history this always wrecked the promise. Always.
3. The Enlightenment found a tentative way out of this trap. It gradually improved 5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports.  All are tightly regulated to prevent inevitable cheating. And cheaters innovate! Hence a need for revised or new regulations. Imagine a sporting league without rules or referees, but with massive money rewards at stake. Watch Rollerball. 
3. Liberals tend to frown at the word "competition." Conservatives snarl at "regulation." When it is only Regulated Competition that ever worked! Yes, over-regulation can cloy or get captured. But again, who banished the captured ICC and CAB and broke up AT&T?  Replace GOP with POC… the Party of Cheaters.
4. Meanwhile libertarians have completely abandoned the "c-word" that should be their center... "competition" in favor of “property.”  Ignore that it’s Democrats who are ending the Drug War, who are taking the Law out of your bedrooms. It’s Democrats under whom entrepreneurialism always does better. That’s always. Ask any libertarian and he won’t care about any of that. The goal of Steve Forbes and Rupert Murdoch and the Kochs is to to have them hold their noses and vote Republican, because “the GOP is ‘slightly less bad”. And that’s enough.
Keep these Mensa-type, underachieving nerds ignoring 6000 years of history, Pay for some pizza and some ego-flattering meme-rants and they’ll  trust that the fast-rising conniving cabals of oligarchs won't re-impose the great enemy of freedom — feudalism. This time — we pinkie swear we won’t!. 

Oligarchs are blocked from total power by fact folks and civil servants… so pour hate on those dedicated folks!
Oh, those  5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports?  They all thrive to exactly the extent that all participants can clearly see what's going on. Transparency. All five wither and dies amid clots and cancerous clouds of secrecy.
Rant-mode off!  ;-)
== End to Gerrymandering? ==
It is within range of possibility - one could pray and hope - that John Roberts will decide to personally save America and Western Civilization and all our hopes for an advanced and decent human future. One ruling - this one - could be how his name will echo down time, either like Roger Taney or like Earl Warren, perhaps reversing the cheating that has stolen American democracy.

Yes, one of the worst gerrymanderers is Maryland... one of the last holdouts amid a wave of voter-led reform in Blue States. Watch as Obama and Holder and other top dems file amicus briefs against Maryland democrats, in part because this crime is now MOSTLY a Red cheat, of course. But also because it is an outrageous crime.

How to fix it? Past SCOTUS rulings evaded the issue, saying they could not see a simple remedy. Bull. Almost any nonpartisan commission would eliminate 80% of the travesty. But we now know excellent mathematical metrics to maximize "voter efficiency." Moreover, I have offered a plan that answers every known GOP objection. Unlike all others, it even retains "state legislature sovereignty!" It allows one of each state's three chambers to be gerrymandered and STILL corrects the injustice !


== Miscellaneous thoughts ==
“Today’s (2018) Congress is dominated by party leaders and functions as a junior partner to the executive," according to an analysis by The Washington Post and ProPublica.

On the other hand, the newly elected Congress will be younger, more female and more diverse, than ever before.

Has there been electoral cheating? See my article on Medium: Henchmen: We are watching

Post-election, carry forward your determination to save civilization. Have a look at Lawrence Lessig’s new campaign — to end super-PACS in America.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

The Athena Veto

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 16:30
Today’s Twitter kerfuffle (not counting the enduring discussion of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knowing how to dance, much to the consternation of some conservatives) comes courtesy of this Washington Post article, in which a “mommy blogger” by the name of Christie Tate discusses why she won’t stop blogging about her kid, even though the kid had asked […]

The Death of the Author! Maybe!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 18:04
Cultural critic and commentator Lindsay Ellis (disclosure: a friend of mine) has a video up talking about “The Death of the Author,” which is a primer and discussion of that particular literary theory, and whether it makes sense to apply it to work today. It’s an interesting video and makes a number of relevant points […]

The Big Idea: James L. Cambias

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 08:36
Can a “big idea” be a bad idea? Author James L. Cambias (who has been one of my favorite writers since we were both at the University of Chicago together) grapples with this problem, and how confronting this issue made his new novel Arkad’s World all the better. JAMES L. CAMBIAS: “It’s such a fine […]

Wasting My Own Time

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 19:49
For 2019 I didn’t do any resolutions, because over the course of time I can’t say that I’ve found them particularly useful, either as an encouragement or as a goad. For me, the way it usually works is that I decide to do things, or I don’t, and my behavior changes accordingly. With that said, […]

The 2019 Awards Consideration Post

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 17:32
For those of you casting about for things to nominate for various awards this year, here’s what I have that’s eligible. Best Novel Head On (April 2018; Tor Books; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ed.) The Consuming Fire (October 2018; Tor Books; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ed.) Best Related Work Virtue Signaling and Other Heresies: Selected Writings From […]

New Years Report - fighting gloom in order to thrive

Contrary Brin - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 17:32
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
My friend Martin Rees — The British Astronomer Royal — has long offered insightful views upon not only the sciences, but also the dangers we face rushing into an uncertain future. His new book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity gives even-handed criticism of both cynical denialism and hand-wringing despair, leading you toward the one thing that might save us all and help our children thrive… clearheaded pragmatism, laced with the idealism to believe we can be better. Solutions exist, but they depend upon an openminded willingness to question assumptions and learn from one another.
  == The Abundance Report ==
Indeed, the worst plague in the world is gloom. It infests large portions of the “left” and lobotomizes almost the entire “right,” undermining the confident,  can-do spirit that has propelled nearly all progress. Know this, only a people who are confident that they can change the world stand any chance of actually changing anything. And "can" only arises when you admit "we already have."

To that end, read an interview with Stephen Pinker about how we are surrounded by good news, leading not to complacency, but a spirit of “I think we can!”
“It’s no contradiction to say that we’re extending human life and there are threats: threats of climate change, threats of authoritarian politicians. You can appreciate the threats, worry about the threats, try to fight back against the threats at the same time that you appreciate the progress that we have made.
“I would say that it’s appreciating the progress that gives us the courage and conviction to try to strive for more progress. History tells us that attempts to make the world better tend to succeed. We’ll never achieve a utopia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make things a little bit better.”
Want some anecdotal evidence?
Inspired in part by the “Tricorder XPrize, a new set of $1 test screens for the presence of a number of diseases like malaria, flu and dengue fever, various types of cancers, and genetic diseases will appreciably contribute to health. And Jimmy Carter's campaign to end the Guinea Worm parasite may reach completion this year..  
The Internet will soon be accessible from all areas of the planet, including rural locations with poor or no network connectivity. The FCC unanimously approvedSpaceX’s ambitious plan to launch 7,518 satellites into low-Earth orbit. These satellites, along with 4,425 previously approved satellites, will serve as the backbone for the company’s proposed Starlink broadband network. These new SpaceX satellites will increase the number of active satellites six-fold in less than a decade. And my friends at ViaSat are taking an entirely different approach (massive geosynchronous sats) toward similar ends. Yes, they'll have more latency in voice coms, but most traffic is surfing and you'll never notice the difference. 
And yes, most of these links are brought to you by the Abundance Insider report from Peter Diamandis’s XPrize Foundation (I’m on the Advisory Council.) Get his book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think! And realize that we have tons of hard work to do, to save the world… but good news is all over the place… suggesting we should be up to the task.
And now something cool. California-based startup Hoversurf is training one of its first customers, the Dubai Police Force, on the 2019 S3 Hoverbike. The vehicle, which can operate with or without a human pilot, weighs 253 lbs, costs $150,000, flies for up to 25 minutes, and can safely fly at an altitude of 16 ft.
== Oh, but the enemies of enlightenment abound ==
“Under the tenure of  Texas Republican Lamar Smith, the House of Representatives Science Committee has held hearing after hearing casting doubt on mainstream climate science, used its subpoena power to harass and intimidate climate scientists, entertained the conspiracy theory that sea level rise is caused by rocks falling into the ocean, and used its Twitter account to blast links to climate change-denying Breitbart articles. Smith, who is not a scientist, has used the veil of authority that chairmanship offers to pen articles imploring the public not to buy into the “hysteria over carbon dioxide” while railing against “climate alarmists” at pro-fossil fuel get-togethers. (He has also accepted hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.)  In short, the House Science Committee has been a dark place for rational discourse on climate change. Sitting on it has been a lonely and frustrating experience for Bill Foster, Congress’s lone scientist (until last night).” - reports Maddie Stone in Gizmodo. These jibbering morons are a cancer on your children's future. Part of a campaign to discredit all fact-using professions. 
Incoming Committee Chair Texas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson promises relief  from this monstrous lobotomization of the world’s “greatest deliberative legislature.”   And maybe… after 2020?  A  rebirth for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) banished by Newt Gingrich for occasionally daring (as faithful-neutral public servants) to say “um, sir, that’s not really true.”
But it’s a long road. The Denialist Cult keeps moving the goal posts. And one way they keep your confed neighbor nodding and hypnotized is by offering dollops of “science” that he learned in Junior High in incantations that let them neutralize any input from actual science

Take the fact that plants consume carbon dioxide in order to grow. That means (according to their latest capering incantation) that nature will flourish if we don’t interfere with coal barons, petro-princes and carbon lords raking in billions from their legacy-corrupt extraction rights!  Never mind that paleontology shows high-CO2 eras featured warm arctic zones… (yay? Ask the US Navy viz the Russians what each one thinks of that)… but also vastly bigger swathes of desert, across the globe.  

You think tundra zones with max one growing season will replace lost temperate zones that had two?  Not for the 10,000 years that it will take, to grow topsoil up there.  Fools.

== It gets worse ==Oh, my, the depths of crazy have yet to be plumbed. Example: “Autohoaxers” are a movement that reflexively declares every significant event a hoax, sometimes just for argument’s sake. Kind of like Vernor Vinge’s fictional “Friends of Privacy,” who auto-generate more ersatz personas and fake items than can ever be refuted, hence making your “that wasn’t me!” denials seem plausible.Read about this and other pyrotechnically loony modern manias now orbiting a growing *Flat-Earth Movement*. Yes you read that right. And this is just one caked, pimply crust-symptom of the disease being crammed on us by the spreading War Against Smart People. (Including every single fact-centered profession, from science, teaching and journalism to intel and military and FBI officers.)One of you suggested “Tell the flat earthers to go to Wal Mart and get a goPro and order a weather balloon and GPS tracker. You don't have to build a rocket to see for yourself. If the Earth were flat, then you'd be able to see the Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific from 30 miles above Colorado."Here’s another truly devastating one: “Soundly Proving the Curvature of the Earth at Lake Pontchartrain.”Of course my own answer is: “How many people do you think can keep secret a conspiracy? At most fifty? Your premise is that ALL the smart people… hundreds of millions of us… are in on this globe-pushing cabal? Woof!"

Liberals are fools, if they think this is rooted in “economic decay of the white middle class.” That’s happened and needs addressing, as does the nastiest pustule on the right — racism. But those are lipstick on a pig.Scratch the surface. This is all about an inherent American spite toward authorities or “elites.” We all think one elite or another is conniving against us. Liberals (rightfully) point at those who oppressed us across 99% of 6000 years… owner-feudal lords.Those oligarchs - uniting in a world-mafia putsch - need a distraction to keep populist masses from recognizing them as the ancient enemy. They have a great one, leveraging and weaponizing hatred toward another elite… smart people who know stuff. And make no mistake, we are the ones confederates truly hate, for “looking down on them.”Think about it. The knowledge elites are our immune system against errors of the past, like feudalism. And errors of the future, like climate change. They are the people who can see — and prevent — the machinations of those seeking a New Feudalism. (I portrayed this in EXISTENCE.) Hence there is a feral agenda behind the War on All Facts — removing the only obstacle standing in oligarchy’s way. 

And gleefully spitting gas on a fire, now Russian space officials talk about ‘investigating’ whether the Apollo landings actually happened. See a link below. Anything to keep us attacking each other. The chief failure mode of our brilliant enlightenment civilization is auto-immune disease.

== And so... back to saving the world ==

See the “Five Phases of  Climate Denialism.” In fact, you can often hear all five uttered during the same hour, at Fox, even though they are mutually contradictory. “Climate Change is a hoax!” and “Glaciers are advancing!” will be chanted – sometimes in the same hour as “It’s changing but no worries and humans didn’t cause it,” all the way to “It’s a calamity and we caused it, but that doesn’t disqualify our credibility; it just means it’s hopeless to try solving the problem! So leave our parasite moguls alone!”

Now “Trump Administration To Polluters: Earth Is Doomed, So Go Hog Wild.” Yes, one branch of the administration issued a 500 page report admitting what every fact-using or “deep state” professional knows, that human-generated greenhouse gases have us on course for a climate precipice of rising acid seas and catastrophically spreading deserts and vast waves of refugees. 
The monsters' conclusion? That nothing can be done to prevent this now, so why try? – is rightly ridiculed by the appalled-educated half of the nation. (Answer – “You who were wrong about every single statement and forecast up to now… why should we heed you any longer?”)

All of this is deliberate. There is no unified conservative position on anything anymore. Not deficits, or trade, or morality… nor old anchor-standards like divorce or gambling or sexual deviancy or “family values.” Certainly not regarding the health of flat-fair-open entrepreneurial market capitalism. What we have now instead are talking points aimed at various constituencies with one purpose, to keep enough of them inside the fraying Big Tent  for one more election.== Links galore ==
One of you (Anthony T.) offered up a raft of NYT articles… “on topics Brin has written about.”  A bunch of riffs on our interesting times.
American Capitalism isn't working

News Networks Fall Short on Climate Story as Dolphins Die on beach
The race to dam rivers in the Himalayas
NASA's Osiris-Rex Arrives at Asteroid Bennu after a two-year journey
A treatment for Sickle Cell disease in Africa

The Insect Apocalypse is Here: What does it mean for life on earth?
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

In Which the Fundamental Nature of Smudge is Very Precisely Communicated in a Single Picture

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 15:33
Yup, this pretty much covers it, I’d say. Also, hello and welcome to 2019! How was your new year?

Your right to see, under attack!

Contrary Brin - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 18:09

The most important advance in civil liberties in this century so far, in the U.S. and by extension the western world, was in 2013 when the Obama Administration and then five U.S. district courts ruled that citizens have a powerful right to record the actions of officials - especially police - in public. No interaction with authority is more needful of accountability than at the level of the street. Moreover, a citizenry who are accustomed to that right will apply sousveillance also upward, as I have long held and as I describe in The Transparent Society and in EARTH
Now the U.S. Eighth District Court in Missouri has declared the exact opposite, allowing cops to seize or break your camera or arrest you, even when you are clearly not interfering. This case will go to the Supreme Court, and we are on notice. No electoral defeat can harm us as much as this, if upheld. Historians will see it as a turning point, toward Orwellian nightmare or revolution.
Read the article and note that the lawyers arguing for this right base it on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Using the 2nd in this context is clever! Because indeed, the "arms" that most benefit the citizenry nowadays are - indeed - cameras, the new Great Equalizer. But I have long maintained all the ACLU attorneys etc are missing something terribly important. 

This right is most-fundamentally protected by the Sixth Amendment! 
The under-rated and almost never-mentioned and utterly vital Sixth! The one that guarantees citizens a right to demand and command access to exculpatory witnesses and evidence that can prove their innocence of an accused crime.  And what could fill this need better than video proof of your story? Why isn’t this obvious?
I'm putting out an alert! This really matters. The rising world oligarchy does not want citizens embedded with an impudent, core-level assumption of a right to look at elites. 

And here's how you can help.
== Stand up for the opposite. For freedom ==
Remember Lawrence Lessig? He tried to make election corruption and finance reform a major issue during the 2016 US campaigns. You know that I urge all citizens to join at least ten NGOs that suit your own notions of what needs doing. I rate Larry’s Equal Citizens as one of the more important ones. Now he and colleagues launch an experiment—a podcast series called “Another Way” — designed to give the listeners a chance to reflect and think, and our culture a way to progress. You can subscribe to the podcast, and get the first episode to get a thoughtful and thought-provoking perspective. 

Did you join your own ten chosen NGOs, where for a small membership  you get others to fight to save the world for you, in whichever mix of priorities you want? Not yet? Do five before New Years and you'll be glad.
As for you millionaires out there, there are loads of ideas for ways that you might help make things much better!

Here's one that some of you have seen before. It would transform the world.

== Let the usual cleanup of henchmen commence ==
And so it begins, accidental death of no-longer-convenient loyal servants and enforcers, as the leaders of mafia clans prove once again they expect loyalty to flow in just one direction. 
Calling all Henchmen! 
Indeed Some mere millionaire could change the world more than the Gates Foundation, by simply offering what I call a “Henchman’s Prize,” luring out of the shadows some flunky who could then bring a wretched conspiracy crashing down.
My proposal for a "Henchman's Prize" goes back two decades — a million dollars plus a new identity for whoever blows the whistle — with full evidence — on the "worst" concealed plot or scheme that year! I suspect nothing would be more cost-efficient at helping poor nations eliminate corrupt kleptocracies and convert to a diamond-shaped social pattern... or help developed nations maintain their healthy accountability systems. (See: The Transparent Society. See also Witness.org.) 
“A permanent office might be created, outside the justice or intelligence communities, that will confidentially and securely advise any person, in America or around the world, who may be thinking about revealing information about bad activities, including those that are illegal or harmful to the people, or that impair the effective operation of justice, democracy, or fair markets. According to each individual's needs, the informant may be steered toward intelligence or law-enforcement services, or toward open source networks, or even toward mass media. Judiciously, some varying types of protection and/or rewards would be made available to brave whistleblowers. Yes, this one will confuse some people. But I hope it will percolate in the minds of some.” See other political suggestions.

And yes, I have repeatedly called upon folks to pass this suggestion, especially, to the new president of Mexico, who could use it to rip the guts out of endemic corruption and set an example to transform the world.
== And finally... get ready for bad stuff ==

 I cannot emphasize enough that a critical mass of Americans must view the 1969 Costa-Gravas film “Z.” Academy Award winner, though you must endure subtitles. It’s based on the true story of the Greek coup that ended democracy in its birthplace, though it also seems startlingly pertinent to the Mueller investigation. Above all, the last five minutes of the film has an M. Night Shyamalan twist that carries a savage bite and warning. 

Only in our case, it’s not the military to be feared. But a world mafia.


. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Out Until January 2, 2019

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 14:31
Smudge has the right idea. I’m talking the next few days off and probably won’t be back until January 2, 2019. That’s next year! Just in case you didn’t know. I hope you enjoy these next few days of seasonal downtime and that your new year is bright and full of hope. See you on […]

New Books and ARCs, 12/27/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 16:24
It’s the final stack of new books and ARCs for 2018, so it’s no surprise it’s a big one. What here would you be happy to help you bring in the new year? Tell us all in the comments. (And if you need a larger version of the picture, here you go.)

Contrast: Two opposite kinds of human… or president... and today's "spiritual leaders."

Contrary Brin - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 15:36
Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE
- As I write this, Donald Trump finished a super-secret couple of hours hurrying in-and-out of Ain Assad Air Base in Iraq, safely in the middle of nowhere. Snubbing Iraq’s leaders, who deserved a meeting in their own country, which all of DT’s predecessors had the courtesy – and courage – to include. And certainly no visit to men and women actually in the field, which Bush, linton and Obama all did. Well well, now he’s able to say “See? I visited troops!”

Today, Mr. Trump is not our central topic, but an illustrative example of how far down a rabbit-hole of hypocrisy and rationalization have plunged those who claim to be America’s spiritual guides. That plunge is demarked with clarity by comparing Trump to one of his predecessors.
== We were all better at 39 ==
Probably the most devastating indictment of the monstrous men who have taken over most American Christian pulpits and seminaries comes by comparing their adulation of Donald Trump – a salacious pervert-bully who avoids church like getting a cavity filled – vs. Jimmy Carter, a modest, generous, faithful man who taught Sunday school for all the 72 years he was married to the same woman, except while serving his country in creaky submarines that saved the world.
Case in point: this modest recollection of how, as a young naval officer, he (heroically) dashed into a melted Canadian reactor as part of a team to disassemble the core. Faith, humility, skill, courage…
…and yet the party line among fundies – especially Baptists – is that men were designed to be aggressive louts and flawed sinners. And hence those who sin a lot,and then repent, are the highest order of being. Of course they say that, with literally hundreds of pastors now accused of sexual perversions on a par with their beloved “saved-sinner” president. (Though notice that the church-going, once-married Bill Clinton is not allowed to repent.)
Despite the absolutely damning and verified salacious dastardy of the “pussy-grabbing” tape, and countless stories from a life of philandering, about 80 percent of white evangelical voters backed Trump in 2016, and exit polls from this year's mid-term election showed little or no erosion of that support, even after porn star Stormy Daniels, and Playmate-of-the-Year, Karen McDougal, offered detailed accounts of sex with him while he was married. Nor is the hypocrisy just about Trump. An eight-month investigation by reporters at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram uncovered hundreds of sex abuse allegations at independent fundamentalist Baptist churches around the country. This article notes 412 allegations of abuse across nearly 200 churches just among unaffiliated Baptist institutions, without tabulating complaints withinthe Southern Baptist Convention or other denominations.
That only scratches the surface. A “conservative” movement that once frowned on divorce now has twice the rate of Democrats. Preaching “abstinence,” red states have far higher rates of teen sex/pregnancy, STDs and domestic abuse. Gambling used to be sin and “cleanliness was next to godliness.” Now the GOP is owned by casino moguls, oil-sheiks, pederasts, pimps, polluters, mafia dons and raised-communist Kremlin agents. Setting aside the anomaly of Utah, name a metric of either decent living or following the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount in which red states aren't worse than blue… including fiscal integrity and balanced budgets.
Yeah, sure. Male humans inherit a bunch of obsolete impulses from either evolution or a God who designed them in. (Ironically, belief in evolution lets God off the hook for a grotesquely culpable crime.)

So, how do these folks feel about a man like Jimmy Carter, who spent his life controlling those base instincts and setting an example as a real man? Well, funny thing about it. According to fundies, that’s a lesser kind of person than a repentant hyper-sinner. Go ahead, do everything opposite to the bearded-beaded, sandal-wearing, tolerance-preaching, asylum-seeking refugee rabbi from Galilee. All is washed away once you sob on TV, declare yourself forgiven, and then cash the checks that come pouring in.
(Theological note: that trick – to sin knowing you’ll repent for absolution later – was declared by church leaders centuries ago to be the one that's unforgivable! And hence, these thumpers on TV are, by process of elimination, almost certainly cynical atheists.)

But let's revisit the 94-year old Jimmy Carter, our generation's Harry Truman.
== A rough-tough presidency ==
Yes, President 39 inherited a shitstorm. The wild, Vietnam-fueled economic mismanagement of LBJ, Nixon and Ford came to roost just as Arab nations (inevitably) seized power over our gas prices. Any other president would have arm-twisted the Fed to keep employment up, but Carter appointed Paul Volcker and said “fix this.” Whereupon Volcker imposed short term pain that ended hyper-inflation, and Ronald Reagan basked in the credit. (Today’s right adulates Volcker, but not the man who appointed him.)
Carter kept making “maturity mistakes,” assuming that doing the right thing would always pay off… the diametric opposite to Trump, whose “deal” errors always arise from the nastiest instincts. Hence, in the biggest mistake of Carter’s presidency, when Iranian revolutionaries took over a hundred US hostages, he “set an example” by taking the equivalent Iranian diplomats in the US and putting them on planes for Tehran, stunning the ayatollahs, who had expected an exchange of threats followed by a formal trade.  Carter should have ensconced the Iranian “counter-hostages” in a beachfront, comfy hotel and let the difference in treatment get photographed daily, highlighting the radicals' barbarity till the mullahs did a swap.
That, alone, might not have ensured re-election. But throw in no-betrayal by Ted Kennedy… and liberals smart enough not to insist on the insane error of forced school bussing … and things might have gone differently.  The Roosevelt coalition of the Greatest Generation might have held together enough to stymie wave after wave of Supply Side (voodoo) rapes of the middle class. Might have. Might have.
Oh, forget ‘might have.’ What stands out now is a Christmas contrast. That supposed Christians sneer at the ex-president who most clearly follows the teachings of Jesus, while singing hosannahs to one who is diametrically opposite to admirable in every conceivable way… and his VP who daily prays for the world to end. 

Read this essay – or at least read captions till the important last few pages.
And now, contrast all that kind of man to one who speaks and acts from “the gut.”
== The micro-biota speaks ==
"I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me." 
Yes, ol' Two Scoops really made it that explicit.  

Of course this is insane. But it would be one thing if his gut had led him to good policies in either business or statecraft. 
In fairness, there were times when his "gut" did serve him! Like betting on New York City when it hit tock bottom in the 70s. And playing Merv Griffin for a billion dollar scam. But that only means his failed casinos etc. were even worse losses, because it's been documented he would be richer today if his inheritance had simply gone into a stock market index fund. Some gut.
(Watch as the whole "collusion" thing becomes a sideshow to Money Laundering -- billions from Russian oligarchs channeled through Deutsche Bank.)

The killer about this "gut" thing is not Trump's open war against science and all other fact-users, including the intel/military/law professionals. The entire GOP-confederacy shares that. 

No, it's the number of "great guys" he appoints, whom he later denounces for betraying him. More than all of the last ten presidents combined. 

That can't be arm-waved away with magical incantations. (This same article expresses his rage at Fed chairman Jerome Powell, his own appointee.) Trump Began His Presidency With 30 Senior White House Staffers. Only 10 Are Left. A similar ratio holds for cabinet rank officers, as Trump clears out any who might betray him via the 25th Amendment.

A clear majority of his "great guys" later betray him in one way or another. Who do you know who has a worse "gut" than that?
And all of the above was written before the firestorm over Defense Secretary James Mattis's spectacularly repudiating resignation. Another "great guy" who later "betrays."
The gut has the same IQ as the rest. And we need to understand that the real civil war is by an idiocracy against smart people. Period.
From FB commenters:
Special Counsel Mueller should hire a gastroenterologist on the team. Interviews will tell nothing. A colonoscopy is required here.” And…
“In Kurt Vonnegut's MOTHER NIGHT, the narrator gives a eulogy for a Neo-Nazi by saying to his mourners/supporters, "There will be more like him as long as there are more men who think with their guts instead of with their heads."
DT, after meeting with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June: "Our conversation was ...very productive. We produced something...beautiful." But after five months of canceled meetings and dissatisfaction, there is no sign of progress toward "denuclearization" of the North. Nada. Um, accomplishments, anyone?
Oh... but "We fell in love" says ol' Two Scoops. Word has it he even let Kim have a rare second scoop of ice cream... and got us what?
== And finally... ==

I'm not the only one worried about how many of the world's mafias and despots want a US+Israel vs Iran mini-war. 
It will help distract attention from domestic woes for Trump, the Saudis, Netanyahu and the Iranian mullahs themselves. 
It will send oil prices skyrocketing, benefiting guess who. 
And the mastermind Don-of-all-world-mafias, Vlad, gets to rake in all the chips at the end.


. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Looking Back on 2018, Looking Forward to 2019

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 13:05
Hey, remember when The Consuming Fire was supposed to have been titled The Widening Gyre? It turns out that both my US and UK publishers kind of hated that title (not the least because no one could agree on how to pronounce the word “gyre”), so we changed it. I have to say now I […]

Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 13:01
Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has […]

It’s Christmas!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 12/25/2018 - 11:17
And if you celebrate it, I hope it’s a wonderful day for you and those you love. Merry Christmas!
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